There’s been a rip in the matrix, and I mean it this time. The sky is gray, then the sky is blue, then the sky is gray again; tiny razor-like drops pelt my cottony head, only to be scorched away by an unforgiving sun that knows nothing of bleach and humidity. Or humility. I can feel it in that mush beneath my scalp: The world is ending.
“They r gonna take britneys babies on wed!!!” Savannah vibrates my pocket with textual teletype of the apocalypse.
“OMG!!!1!!” I return in kind.
“What r we gonna do????” she rattles again.
Well, we obviously have to do something. Tonight that something was supposed to be a paying of patronage to the retiring Weekly music editor Jason Ferguson at his big Social sendoff-with-bands, but how’s that going to positively affect Britney’s soul caving in as the light drips from her eyes, through her wig and into the gutter? The schadenfreude train has long since left the station on all things Spears, and we’ve assigned ourselves the duty of some kind of telepathic intervention. In a way, we are Britney Spears (or at least Savannah is). God, if only we knew her number we could just text her. That would fix everything!
“Our goal tonight is to find a way to help Britney,” I whisper-speak as we trudge through the downtown puddles of doom on a Monday night. “Somewhere there has to be a sign.”
And there it is. On the corner of Central and Orange, baking in the neon glow of dirtbag commerce, rests a lone pink baby sock. It’s a fucking baby sock!
“Oh my god! Should we take it?” Savannah coos. “We have to take it,” I trench coat. “It’s a clue.”
I pull the sock to my face, search for sequins or a designer label and pretend to smell it while staring into the useless pixilated Central Florida News 13 ticker wrapping around the Wachovia building. No clues here: The Britney story spins its illuminated noose around reason and a tear wells in my left eye. A LYNX bus clatters by, breaking my concentration, its cruel exhaust scaring my tear back into its duct. “Get a Plan!” the advertisement on its side commands.
“We need a plan,” a light bulb literally falls off Savannah’s head.
“Duh,” I sweep it up. “Maybe we should just ask everybody else what we should do.”
On a drippy Monday night downtown, everybody else seems to be homeless – plans are not in apparent abundance. Besides, asking the homeless about the plight of a boozed-up millionaire would make us assholes, right? Right.
“I’ll do it,” Savannah volunteers. “Star does it all the time!”
No. Star started this.
At the Social things are just beginning to coagulate. Small patches of music types lean against the bar, staring at nothing; there’s still plenty of room to circulate like ridiculous platelets, so circulate we do, bumping occasionally into acquaintances and generally not achieving any Britney clarity. Tonight’s star, Jason Ferguson – who I love and miss dearly, mind – chimes in with the first worthwhile suggestion.
“You should write a song for her,” he music edits. “Something like ‘The KFK Took My Babies Away.’”
“The Ramones,” the room’s collective eye rolls.
“But what’s the other ‘K’ for?” I try to recover from my Federline moment.
We take our quest to a bartender named Lauren, who responds to the news of Britney’s disem-baby-ment with a terse “Hooray!” We tell her we hate her. So then we hop to the back bartender who is clipping an ad from the Weekly about a dog festival to stick into her day planner. Surely she’ll be sensitive.
“Why would I feel sorry for her? She makes millions.” She shrugs. “I told a girl once that she looked just like Britney Spears and she got really pissed off.”
“Wow, you look just like Britney Spears,” we simultaneously hate back.
A few other people – mostly girls – spit similar joyful venom at Brit’s demise, and we’re getting exhausted. One male, a music writer named Justin, attempts to cool our nerves with a completely plausible suggestion of teleportation, complete with an animated Transformer-armed simulation. We don’t hate him at all, but we aren’t really getting the answers we need. The super-magic lucky baby sock has gone cold. The babies are almost gone.
“Let’s write a song!” Savannah, hearing the echoes of her mind, pulls out her Sidekick.
“Oh Jayden and Preston/ What a big mess done to your mama,” she fingers. “U ruined her with your Federline genes/ Made her eat marshmallows and beans/ Come now, Papa Zao/ Wow/ Wow/ Oh, baby mama/ We love you … Billy and Savannah.”
That’ll do. But it won’t really, as we have no one to sing or send it to. Poetry equals impotence. Gimme more.
Defeated, we head back down the path that brought us here, randomly comparing our own bouts with the monsters in the gutter and the imaginary babies that I’ve lost through the years. It just isn’t fair, we snivel.
“Can you spare some change?” a panhandling woman shuffles by.
“Sure, but only if you tell me what we should do about Britney,” Savannah crosses the thin blue line.
After we explain the situation, the woman pauses, says, “Ohhhh no. I don’t think that’s right,” and then takes a dollar.
“But I gots a long way to go!” she pulls a “Gimme More.”
So do firstname.lastname@example.org